The Bad, The Good, and The Editors

Sometimes a disaster turns into a great adventure. (Of course that’s because I’m not the one, in this case, who will have to pay for the damage.)

Last month, Mary Ann Aug, a fellow sister in Sisters in Crime, responded when I asked if anyone going to Sleuthfest would be willing to share a the ride across Alligator Alley to Deerfield Beach. I arrived at her house at 1 pm Thursday and switched my luggage into her elegant (and very clean) Lexus. We were on the road within 15 minutes and nearing mile marker 93 when we heard a bang, then the sound of something being dragged. Mary Ann pulled to the side and we both got out of the car. The bumper was half off and her tire was going flat.

Two hours later, after waiting for a tow truck and then having an enjoyable (and yes, I mean it. The driver and his helper were great.) ride to a body shop in Naples, Mary Ann’s husband met us with my car. (Thank goodness they’d suggested I leave my car key with her husband.) With the spare tire on the Lexus and Duct tape holding the fender in place (The Lexus now looked like cars I’ve driven in the past.) he headed back to his house.

Mary Ann now had to ride in my not-so-clean car, but we made it to the conference hotel by 6:30 pm, and Mary Ann even bought my dinner and a couple drinks. (In truth, I think I owed her, but when it comes to food and alcohol, I’m not one to argue.)

And that was my start to Sleuthfest 2016, which once again was a wonderful conference to attend. C.J. Box, Victoria Plame, and P.J. Parrish (two sisters writing as one) were the guest speakers. I’ll write more about them in another blog.

Editors’ Roundtable

I always like to attend and listen to editors talk about what they’re looking for. This “Editors’ Roundtable” included Chris Knopf (Permanent Press), Erin George (Henery Press), Anne Speyer (Ballantine Books), and Neil Nyren (G.P. Putnam & Sons).

“Turn Offs.”

They all agreed that the following problems acted as turn offs when reviewing a manuscript.
1. Too many exclamation points
2. Too many semicolons
3. Too much backstory.
4. Not starting book soon enough.

“Turn Ons”

  1. Good writing
  2. A good plot
  3. Good characters

Suggestions the editors made.

  1. Read dialogue aloud. If it doesn’t sound like what you hear, change it.
  2. SHOW don’t TELL.
  3. Interesting characters.
    It can be the same plot you’ve seen before if the characters are interesting. Character drives the book.
  4. Voice
    Which is one of those illusive things where you know it if it’s there.

Someone in the audience asked how many queries/proposals/manuscripts they read in a year and how many they purchased. The editors could only guess what the total number of new material might be, but most mentioned around a thousand a year…and most said they only went to contract with 4 to 10 new writers a year. Not exactly what a packed room of writers wanted to hear.

Next week I’ll share my notes from two (or maybe three) other sessions I attended.

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14 Responses to The Bad, The Good, and The Editors

  1. What an adventure, Maris! Glad you made it to the conference okay. Thanks for sharing the info from the workshops. I look forward to reading the next updates! Thanks for sharing.

    • Maris Soule says:

      It was quite and adventure, Loralee, but Mary Ann was efficient and upbeat, and everything worked out fine. Just more research for a story. Right?

  2. Nancy Gideon says:

    Talk about starting out with a ‘bang’! Thanks for sharing your experiences so far.

    • Maris Soule says:

      LOL, Nancy. It could have been a scary situation if we hadn’t been so close to Naples. Farther along Alligator Alley and it’s like being in the middle of the dessert.

  3. What a tough start! Still, it sounds like you got a lot of good info. As Nancy just said, thanks for sharing!

  4. Oops, sorry for the exclamation mark.

  5. Melissa Keir says:

    What an interesting start to your trip. I’m glad that the ending wasn’t as exciting.

    Thank you for sharing what the editors were looking for. I’d love to hear if they had a particular type of genre they are looking for.

    • Maris Soule says:

      Melissa, Sleuthfest is primarily geared for mystery/suspense/thriller writers so these editors are all looking for that genre. However, it wouldn’t hurt to look at their websites (publishers) and see what else they publish.

  6. Diane Burton says:

    Thanks for sharing the editors’ insights. I always enjoy reading your take on conferences.

    • Maris Soule says:

      Thanks, Diane. I especially like the agent and editor panels. Usually they simply reinforce information I know, but sometimes I hear something new. I had a conflict this time, so wasn’t able to hear the agents’ panel.

  7. Lucy Kubash says:

    Glad you made it safe and sound. Sounds like an interesting conference, and I look forward to hearing more about it and the speakers.

    • Maris Soule says:

      Thanks, Lucy. Mary Ann did an amazing job of handling the car when the tire blew and the bumper hit the road. We were never in any danger, so it was merely an adventure.